Four Benefits of a Service Dog for a Child with Autism
Did you know that about one in 68 children in America has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and that its prevalence is on the rise? Raising a child with autism certainly comes with unique challenges, but you don’t have to go it alone. Autism service dogs can be wonderful companions for children with ASD and an extremely beneficial addition to your family. Here are four ways a service dog can benefit a child with ASD:
Service dogs can alert your child to emergencies. Autism is categorized as a sensory processing disorder, and often this leads to sensory overload. So even when an emergency occurs, it is difficult for your child to quickly comprehend what is going on and how to handle it. Suppose the smoke alarm goes off; when he is already trying to process everything he’s hearing, smelling, touching, and seeing, it’s tough for your child to immediately identify a new sound and its meaning. Autism service dogs are specially trained to alert their handlers of important sounds, and can help guide them to a safe response.
Service dogs can be a great way to help teach your child responsibility. “Pick up your toys.” “Finish your homework.” “Help with the dishes.” While these are certainly all reasonable responsibilities, it can be tough for a child with ASD (heck, for any child!) to find the motivation. Having a dog to feed, clean up after, walk and play with can be a rewarding way to teach your child responsibility without feeling like a nag.
They provide a friendly, nonjudgmental companion. It’s important for children with autism to feel loved and totally accepted, and service dogs can offer an ideal friendship. A dog doesn’t mind if her owner makes a mistake or says something silly. She accepts him for exactly who he is and never makes him feel like an outsider.
A service dog can reduce your child’s repetitive and self-destructive behaviors. Autism service dogs are trained to identify the repetitive physical habits many children with autism display. While sometimes these behaviors are totally harmless, the child can become completely engulfed in the action. A service dog acts as a calming presence and can give him a gentle signal to stop — especially when the behavior is destructive.
Autism service dogs can be an invaluable friend to a child with autism and a truly rewarding adoption into your family. The benefits these canines offer to their handlers can create a happier, healthier child today and last for a lifetime.
Vee Cecil is a wellness coach, personal trainer, and bootcamp instructor. Vee is passionate about studying and sharing her findings in wellness through her recently-launched blog.
I wish to thank Vee Cecil for volunteering this article. Bob